Guest-blogger, artist and writer, Alan John Campbell, has developed a fascination with memorialisation. His work at Glasgow Necropolis has been compiled into a poignant photographic essay.
The images compiled into this photographic essay each express a narrative that taken as a total will hopefully be interesting and meaningful. Examining these images suggests that one aspect of memorialisation can be the quality of sculptural ornamentation upon grave stonemasonry.
The city’s most prominent cemetery, the Necropolis, is situated adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral and was modelled on the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. It was built in the Victorian period and although most of its burials were in the Christian Faith, a Jewish section was also arranged. Headstones, monuments, and mausoleums of wealthy merchants and industrialists are lined along winding paths that circle and climb up the hill its sited upon.
Within its boundaries can be found many fascinating examples of grave sculpture in a myriad of forms and styles; often these artistic renderings truly have aesthetic beauty. A stroll around will bring one across impressive, expensive memorials, reverentially religious as well as witty, curious memorials. There is an abundance of angels depicted with varyingly serene, contemplative or mournful countenances. Also, sculpted bronze or stone portraits of the deceased grace some of the wealthier plots. Sophisticated works of art by stonemasons that would, if reimagined, outside the cemetery environs would merit housing within a museum or art gallery.
One particular monument that warrants mention is that of John Henry Alexander who was a Glasgow theatre manager who died in 1851. The Scottish sculptor Alexander Handyside Ritchie was the stonemason who fashioned the memorial. A clever poetic verse was inscribed on a rounded surface of the monument and other details portray a theatre mask, comedic motifs and musical instruments.
The other cemeteries within the city are no less interesting to visit and a keen eye will always find either a philosophical or poignant epitaph and flourishes of sculptural skill.
These monuments, taken together, have become a legacy that attracts tourists to explore the seemingly endless displays of lives recorded in stone. Complicated in the definition of its principal purpose, the cemetery provides a burial place marking an ended life; a place of connection for family-relatives and acquaintances too, as well as a place of mourning and remembrance. Nevertheless, it is a testament to those masters of memorial stonework that the experience of visiting these cemeteries can been elevated to an extraordinary experience if one has the eye to notice the detail.
Alan John Campbell is an artist and writer based in Glasgow. He has spent time photographing the architecture of the city of Glasgow, the sculptural-ornamentation labours of the past stonemasons, and especially the elaborate statuary carved upon the building surfaces that demonstrate the highest levels of skill and artistry.
You can view more of Alan’s photographs on his Flickr page.